A Guide To Tokyo’s Coolest Neighborhoods

Tokyo’s sheer size can make planning a visit to the expansive metropolitan area seem like a daunting task. Apart from popular tourist destinations like Shibuya and Ginza, where are the best neighborhoods to discover chic cafes, modern museums, artsy boutiques and creative bars and restaurants?

Wonder no longer; we’ve compiled a guide to Tokyo’s trendiest neighborhoods so you don’t have to.

From winding cobbled paths dotted with design shops to bohemian bookstores and scenic parks, here are some of the coolest spots to discover in the world’s largest city:

A Guide To Tokyo’s Coolest Neighborhoods

Naka-Meguro

Tokyo’s Coolest Neighborhoods Naka-Meguro - Tokyo - Japan

Photo via Staffan Asami on Flickr

It wasn’t long ago that Naka-Meguro was a mecca for hipsters and artists. While increasing development and gentrification have started to change the vibe in this neighborhood, you’ll still find plenty of alternative shops, innovative art galleries, and creative souls.

Don’t miss a stroll along the canal at Meguro River, especially picturesque when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. From here, take time to explore the neighborhood’s narrow lanes, dotted with design stores and artisan coffee shops.

Keep an eye out for Cow Books, an offbeat bookstore selling out-of-print books, including “first editions of modern day authors.” For hydration, try the Sidewalk Stand, which specializes in quality coffee, hot sandwiches and craft beer.

When hunger strikes, stop by Junkadelic. The hip Tex-Mex restaurant has a funky atmosphere, beautiful murals, and a cool grunge design.

Kagurazaka

Tokyo’s Coolest Neighborhoods Kagurazaka Snowfall

Photo via Jim O’Connell on Flickr

Once known for its geisha houses (a few of which still stand today,) Kagurazaka is the place to experience traditional Japanese culture.

Come hungry, because you’ll find an array of authentic Japanese restaurants serving everything from ramen to soba noodles to Japanese rice pudding. Of particular note is Kyourakutei, a chic but affordable Michelin-star restaurant famed for its Japanese noodle dishes and tempura.

To learn about furoshiki, the beautiful cloths used to wrap, protect and decorate various Japanese items, visit Yamato Nadeshiko. Furoshiki make excellent gifts and souvenirs. The helpful attendants can demonstrate how to use your furoshiki as shopping bags, decorations, and even to present wine bottles.

Kagurazaka is also home to a large French population, which means you’ll find a surprising number of delicious French restaurants that are worth checking out. Try the savory crepes at Cafe-Creperie Le Bretagne, the first creperie to open in Japan.

Round out your visit to Kagurazaka with a stop at the Akagi-jinja, a unique shrine remodeled by famed Japanese architect Kengo Kuma.

Jiyugaoka

Tokyo’s Coolest Neighborhoods Jiyugaoka

Photo via chia ying Yang on Flickr

Fittingly referred to as “Little Europe,” at first glance, Jiyugaoka’s promenades and Venetian Piazza “La Vita” (featuring Italian architecture and an actual gondola) might leave you feeling like you’ve changed continents. But take a closer look, and you’ll discover a mesmerizing fusion of European design with authentically Japanese touches.

Alongside mouthwatering French bakeries and stylish boutiques, keep an eye out for Japan’s famous zakka shops. These miscellaneous goods stores are all about improving home, life and appearance. Koe House is always a favorite stop in Jiyugaoka; it focuses on accessories for the home, but you’ll find plenty of zakka shops of all sizes and wares throughout the neighborhood.

Finally, don’t miss Joshin Temple, a large complex of Buddhas, gates and exquisite buildings surrounding by lush woodland. It’s the perfect spot to escape the bustle of the city without having to venture far.

Kichijoji

Sakura (Cherry blossom) at Inokashira park Tokyo’s Coolest Neighborhoods

Photo via Naoki Nakashima on Flickr

Kichijoji might not be a popular spot for tourists, but it is very well known amongst locals, many of whom consider it to be one of the best places to live in Tokyo. Start your exploration with a visit to Inokashira Park. Shaded walking paths make this an ideal location to take a stroll; the scenic pond in the center serves as the perfect backdrop for a quiet picnic.

Also within the park is the mesmerizing Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli animation house. You don’t have to be an anime fan to appreciate this museum, which features a walk-through of animation techniques, temporary exhibitions, a roof garden, cafe, and gift shop. Just be sure to purchase your tickets well in advance as they are high in demand.

For shopping and drinking, head to Harmonica Yokocho. This maze of alleys was once home to Tokyo’s black market. Today, you’ll find a large variety of merchants selling a little bit of everything, including specialty goods like yokan (sweet bean jelly). Most visit Harmonica Yokocho for the vibrant open-air bars and restaurants. It’s easy to while away an entire night hopping from bar to bar without leaving the area.

Shimokitazwa

Crate digging Tokyo’s Coolest Neighborhoods Shimokitazwa
Photo via Zac Davies on Flickr

For a neighborhood that’s both edgy and sophisticated, the colorful streets of Shimokitazawa are a must-visit. From vintage clothing stores to organic shopping to theaters and live music venues, Shimokitzawa lives up to its Bohemian reputation.

Savor the izakaya dishes at the hugely popular Shirubei. The restaurant is always crowded but for a good reason, with a nice variety of traditional and fusion dishes. Or, combine your drinking with flower shopping at the eclectic Flowerbar Gardena.

When you need a pick-me-up, stop into the small but memorable Ikkyu Donut. Their Soy Cream and airy donuts are consistent crowd-pleasers, guaranteed to give you the sugar rush you need to continue your neighborhood exploring.